If you want to give a birth to your sought after ‘child’, it grows out of visionary ideas. Stefano Dalfiume had such a committed idea out of love for mountian biking.
“We obviously didn’t have ‘The Idea’, with the capital I, what we had, though, is the inner desire to put up a race that we felt was close to our heart”
When listening to Stefano, the maker of Rally di Romagna, one gets the notion that this event is rather a heartfelt affair and not a business-like case seeking profit and event size.
“You know, if you look around and see the surrounding landscape, we truly are blessed with this divine Romagna region, and it’s an unparalleled advantage. You literally had to start this [event]. And so, it’s been only a matter of time, plus when and how to do it.”
The beginnings were rocky, due to minimal funds and marginal support, be it from sponsors or local government. Adding to that, the mentality plays an important part too. “To convince the supporters and benefactors to put their Euros into something which is unprecedented and which is pretty much just beginning isn’t a walk in the park, trust me”.
Stefano and his staff did adhere to the basic idea, and adamantly sought supporters that were willing to contribute, and as he put it: “All those funds were highly welcome”.
What’s been the crucial factor that had lastly convinced his partners to invest in his project? Sighing deeply, Stefano explained: “Well, I guess, my utterly honest conviction. I have been, and still am, asked numerous times, what keeps me driving. And I have repeated so many times, it’s my faith in that event, I do truly believe that the experience you provide to the participants is lasting – for good.”
The regulars did it and will do it over and over. “That’s right, they will come back and line up for it. What’s more, the strong effect of word-of-mouth advertisement is really tangible.”
Rally di Romagna attracts predominantly Italian riders – “but we are, for sure, highly interested to welcome those from abroad.” Now, they have a strong trump card in their hands, the countryside – “you have got to experience our backcountry, the tradition, mentality, and on and on. I’m just hard pressed to put it in to words….” says the all smiling Stefano.
What does it take to commit to such organisation? “I’ll tell you point blank: total dedication – there is no way you can do it ‘half-ass-like’. Secondly, you must rely on your crew as well. That’s an all year employment and if there is a lack of dedication for the matter, well you better off let it go – it won’t work for the long haul.”
The contrasting program that is featured by other events is widespread. “If you take even events such as Ironbike, something which is gruellingly hard and relentless, and put that into contrast to other events that are, well let’s say rather lukewarm in terms of difficulty, then you are really hard pressed to find a stage race in Italy tha ticks the boxes as far as the ‘something inbetween’ goes.” – he puts that in context – “ we meant to create it the way that it’s doable for all decently fit bikers, whether having high ranking ambitions or just wanting to finish.”
Speaking if which, what’s the typical Rally rider anyway? “Let’s see, I guess you can’t characterise or catalogue The Rally di Romagna rider. It’s a healthy mixture of ‘go-for-it’ attitude and that of ‘laid-back’. Which is ok, as we don’t want to stamp our race as the one of those extremes.”
But Stefano runs the ‘risk’ to become one of the event makers attracting more and more highly ranked pros and amateurs.
“I have zero problem with that, quite the opposite, already last year, we have got a couple of renowned racers and word has it, those kind of riders keep signing up not even from Italy but from abroad as well. We indeed like this fact”
When asked where Stefano sees his baby in 2-3 years’ time, he is rather coy on that one. “For sure, we want to grow it up to a degree, bearing in mind though that quality precedes quantity. To keep a decent standard is hard enough, so that’s indeed a challenge.”
Adding new routes into the mix of ingredients is in the making as well, but it isn’t a necessity.
“We firmly do believe, the landscape and the countryside do it greatly, I’m getting feedbacks that go like: wherever the route leads it’s just gorgeous.”
And that’s something Stefano and his staff always pay high attention to: “Rider experience is key for us. Listen, listen, listen to them…. “
Asked whether there is a tagline, a message to those being in the unknown from this event or those still uncertain whether or not to line up for it, he isn’t the guy of the huge messages and sugar-coated catch-phrases for the race.
“No, well, come and see – I just keep spreading the word, if you don’t try it, you won’t experience the uniqueness of Rally di Romagna” . The same is true for any kind of comparisons.
“I’m aware of the huge realm of well-established and new-born events, [most of all in the US and Australia], but at the same time, I believe these might be highly intriguing for all who are interested in a race that is embedded in this epic land and challenging environment , on the old continent. Littered with all cliché-like traditional hospitalities of the Tuscany Region.
It’s a redundant question whether there is any hard-headed business model in place. “Well, that’s about partnerships and relationships. You have got to have a certain degree of rapport with your backers, and the same is true for your soon-to-be racers. I prefer seamless, immediate communication. But most of all an honest one” while listening to Stefano there is really no need to prove this “I just don’t want to go back on my words, what we can’t hold, we won’t promise. Period.”
He and his crew will go places, as his organically growing event showed in the previous years that the Rally di Romagna is becoming more and more attractive all over the world.